Scotland the Blog: How attention to Skills and STEAM can help us clean up and create.

Scotland’s skilled future will be shaped by a whole range of industries and a mix of skills. This month we had a fantastic engagement with two critical aspects.. The month started with a speech to the Scottish Training Federation. A body which brings together Scottish training learning and skills. Outlining our Scotland’s skilled future approach at their conference in Crieff, also marked the anniversary of my appointment as Head of CIPD Scotland.  This was an opportunity to present our vision of a future Scottish workplace enriched by learning and skills and delivering the productivity we need. Focusing on how we develop skills for young people, I explained that we need to look at the entire scope of skills policy and not focus on one problem area.

The issue of how acute this need is was brought home to me by visits to two great examples of Scotland's Skilled Future.  Syscanner which seeks out travel and car hire deals and which relies given its business of optimising search, on key IT skills. The need for programming and coding staff is matched by the need for a whole range of savvy specialists L&D people who get "tech" and its creative context, to HR leaders who understand as Cathy Wilson does the need to build a structure which supports dynamic growth and which preserves the mix of innovation and collaboration. In tech firms this is constantly shifting and hard to pin down.

Diamond Power makes stuff you can see. If you dropped it on your foot you would need surgery. Luckily Health and Safety is a big priority. Diamond make Boiler cleaning solutions for the power generation industry. "Soot blowers" as they are colloquially known,   are pieces of precision engineering assembled by skilled workers jet away the caked grime which impedes the efficiency of generation and creates higher emissions.

HR in this division of Babcock Wilcox is headed by CIPD West of Scotland Chairman George Galloway, who has responsibility for EMEA. As a skilled tradesman as well as an HR leader, George knows the story of Scotland's skills and his insight is worth knowing. Unlike most politicians and policy makers he lives the global context of Scottish engineering on a daily basis.

Government wants to create high skills modern apprenticeships, but there is a bottleneck in training these vital young workers. George explains; they need mentors and when production is at its peak that’s not easy. Stopping to discuss how a technique happens can impede productivity and this kind of manufacturing faces an array of global low cost production. To square the circle of being more innovative whilst remaining productive we need to think differently. George suggests supporting mentors with funding so that we take the competitiveness issue of our question.

We think Scottish government should look at the idea of mentoring our manufacturing future. Apprenticeship should be a mix of mentoring and detailed course learning if one or the other is difficult it becomes a hassle for hard pressed employers. Maybe if these decision did not need to be balanced more skilled apprentices would be hired.

Cathy's dilemma is that growth for Skyscanner in Scotland needs a continuous infusion of high tech skills. The chronic impending shortage of ICT skills is one of the key challenges. A meeting with Iris Lanny Oracle's education/Employer Engagement lead for the UK is instructive. By 2017 10% of jobs will require programming skills. As a medium cost, high skill economy Scotland can prosper if we address these issues. In fact such is the need for technology skills the Scottish government has added an M to STEM skills as I reported recently given the massive technical dimension to healthcare skills. However I had another insight recently when Don McIntyre a design engineer at Glasgow School of Art introduced me to STEAM skills. That’s putting artistic flair and creativity into the science and technology mix. Exactly what our leading innovators do.

Both these area of our economy require concentrated effort to build skills or the expansion which is promised will happen elsewhere. To do that requires innovation with the limited resource available.  At the STF conference I was told that an apprentice programme folded because government would not fund a skilled manger/mentor. That’s crazy. Let’s sort it.


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